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Morpho-functional characteristics of rat fetal thyroid gland are affected by prenatal dexamethasone exposure

DOI: 10.1016/j.steroids.2014.03.006
  • Thyroid
  • Fetal Development
  • C Cells
  • Follicular Cells
  • Dexamethasone
  • Stereology
  • Chemistry
  • Design
  • Medicine


Abstract Thyroid hormones (TH) and glucocorticoids strongly contribute to the maturation of fetal tissues in the preparation for extrauterine life. Influence of maternal dexamethasone (Dx) administration on thyroid glands morpho-functional characteristics of near term rat fetuses was investigated applying unbiased stereology. On the 16th day of pregnancy dams received 1.0mg/Dx/kg/b.w., followed by 0.5mg/Dx/kg/b.w. on the 17th and 18th days of gestation. The control females received the same volume of saline. The volume of fetal thyroid was estimated using Cavalieri’s principle; the physical/fractionator design was applied for the determination of absolute number of follicular cells in mitosis and immunohistochemically labeled C cells; C cell volume was measured using the planar rotator. The functional activity of thyroid tissue was provided from thyroglobulin (Tg) and thyroperoxidase (TPO) immunohistochemical staining. Applying these design-based modern stereological methods it was shown that Dx treatment of gravid females led to a significant decrease of fetal thyroid gland volume in 19- and 21-day-old fetuses, due to decreased proliferation of follicular cells. The Tg and TPO immunohistochemistry demonstrated that intensive TH production starts and continues during the examined period in control and Dx-exposed fetuses. Under the influence of Dx the absolute number of C cells was lower in both groups of near term fetuses, although unchanged relation between the two populations of endocrine cells, follicular and C cells suggesting that structural relationships within the gland are preserved. In conclusion maternal glucocorticoid administration at the thyroid gland level exerts growth-inhibitory and maturational promoting effects in near term rat fetuses.

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